Chile miners: Rescue delayed, but the first miner is still expected to emerge Tuesday
Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said Tuesday that the efforts to remove the first of 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground would be delayed until about 6 p.m. Pacific time, allowing time for tests to be run using an empty rescue capsule.
Miners’ relatives, government officials and media representatives all eagerly awaited the first sign of a successful rescue on what was the 69th day of captivity for the men. President Sebastian Pinera arrived at the mine Tuesday to see the rescue efforts and greet the miners.
“We made a promise to never surrender and we kept it,” Pinera said.
As relatives waited for details about when their loved ones were to be hoisted up aboard the Phoenix rescue capsule, they said they were allowing themselves to feel an enormous sense of relief.
Juan Alcalipe, whose son-in-law Osma Araya, 30, was among the trapped miners, said he was excited to be so close to the end of a nightmare. Araya, he said, won’t be returning to work at the mine.
“My daughter won't let him,” Alcalipe said.
The first miner to be rescued will be Florencio Avalos and the last will be foreman Juan Urzua, government officials said. If all goes smoothly, all the miners should be freed during the next two days, officials said.
Near the rescue site were containers that were to serve as a makeshift clinic, where for two hours the miners are to receive first aid if needed and be given the chance to shower and change clothes.
Farther up a steep incline, past enormous cranes and other equipment used in the rescue effort, were a half-dozen container-like structures where miners were to be reunited with their families.
Earlier, Golborne said he was not ready to declare “mission accomplished” despite his confidence in the rescue preparations. He said officials hoped that at least one of the miners would be out of the mine before the end of the day Tuesday.
-- Chris Kraul in Copiapo, Chile
Photos: Chile miner rescue
Live video: Chilean miners rescue operation
Graphic: Narrow escape way for miners
Map: Copiapo, Chile